Stained Glass

Guidelines for Memorials in Churches

The Church of Ireland has many examples of memorials ranging from large wall mounted monuments to small plaques, from stained glass windows to pulpits and other items of church furniture. In some places robes, kneelers and altar linen have a memorial character too. Some of these memorials are works of art in their own right and, as the work of significant sculptors and artists, add an important historical dimension to the parish church. In a number of cases we have only recently become aware of the intrinsic value of certain memorials which had long been taken for granted and rarely properly studied. For example, the survey of stained glass currently being undertaken has identified previously unknown works of art.

In the event of a request to relocate a memorial to another church, the permission of the RCB must be sought. At the time it was donated the memorial was an outright gift to the church and so became in effect the property of the RCB. However, there can be situations in which descendants of donors somehow continue to think they 'own' what was long since given to the church. It is important that the wisdom or otherwise of moving a memorial, which may be in a fragile condition, as well as its suitability or otherwise for the proposed new location is taken into consideration. Some memorials certainly deserve to be retained if at all possible; at least a few may have finished their course and have little intrinsic merit. Where moving a memorial is deemed expedient, the goodwill as opposed to the consent of the original donor family may be worth procuring, not least where costs are involved... It goes without saying that those responsible for caring for churches are aware of the importance of the memorials they may contain and of the differing maintenance requirements. A case in point is the proper care and protection of stained glass windows.

The Historic Churches Advisory committee is aware of the needs of some parishes to mark the loss of individuals or organisations by erecting memorials. The Committee has an advisory role concerning good practice in caring for historic churches and feels it may be of assistance to offer advice to Select Vestries and others for use when a new memorial is under consideration. Past generations commissioned high quality contemporary works to place in churches in memory of their family or friends; it is important that this tradition of commissioning of work of our time is continued. It enhances our historic churches and encourages creativity amongst artists. The Memorial Arts Charity was established in 1998 to help people commission well-designed memorials. It may be accessed on and includes references to Irish craftspeople. So often high quality modern work - despite rumours to the contrary - fits into a historic church better than (say) imitation 'churchy' Gothic. Again, those who seek to install new glass should turn their attention to the artist in that medium rather than to the factory.

The following are some of the questions which should be asked -